Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Nagus written by Ira Steven Behr and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: The Grand Nagus visits DS9 and passes his sceptre to Quark…

Single Father: Sisko realises to his dismay that his son is growing up and he just can’t excite him with the things that he used to. The conclusion of the b plot where Sisko realises how responsible his son is becoming is very touching. 

Young Sisko: Jake would rather hang about in a cargo bay with Nog than visit the Bajoran fire caves with his old man. Jake shows a great sense of maturity by listening to his fathers opinion that sometimes friendships end and still chooses to hold on to his relationship with Nog and to help him to read. Hilariously Jake is hypnotised by the sight of a Vulcan woman’s ass – if only Wesley Crusher had moments like this to convince us that he had blood pumping to the appropriate organs.

Ferengi Family: Clearly there is a hierarchy in this Ferengi family with Quark dishing out punishment to Rom who in turn dishes it out to Nog. Fascinating to see how that family structure would change in the course of the series with both Nog and Rom finding positions of great responsibility. Knowing where his character ends up it is priceless to see these early episodes with Nog; here he is lying to his teacher, dirtying his friends name and failing to produce his homework. If you were to tell me at this point that he would wind up as the first Ferengi in Starfleet I would have laughed in your face. What’s important is that Nog is likeable despite his failings (or you might say because of them) since he wants to do well at school but his family is working against his best interests and he wants to better himself and allows Jake to teach him to read properly. O’Brien is Nog’s teacher and slating his character in this episode but come series four he is packing him off to the Academy with a gift and come series seven Nog is his superior officer! How times change. Astonishing that even after Rom tries to kill Quark your sympathies are still with him because of how badly Quark treats him. His road to independence is another rich character thread in this series. 

Community Leader: Quark fears that the Grand Nagus is there to buy the bar for a fraction of what it is worth. He had the instinct, the lobes to make the smart move and set up a bar so close to a stable wormhole. For Quark this is the ultimate prize for all of his years of avarice and despite assassination attempts he will always go for the profit jugular and bask in his own success. He walks down the Promenade in royal robes, holding his head and sceptre high and waving to all and sundry. There is no way of crushing his ego whilst he holds the staff of power. Quark is simply overcome with grief over the Nagus’ death, laughing hysterically at Rom’s suggestion that he could run the bar. He is the richest man in the Ferengi Alliance and yet when he sees a coin running across the floor he still cannot resist nabbing it. Sums him up perfectly. Brilliantly Quark isn’t cross with his brother for trying to kill him, instead he promotes him for such wonderful treachery. How can you fail to love the Ferengi characters. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘So the Andorian says…your brother? I thought it was your wife!’ – we never hear the whole joke but since Quark is telling you can be sure it is filthy.
‘Now go to your room…and no studying!’ – that really tickles me!
‘If in doubt…be ruthless.’
‘Sorry Quark but you’ve just been voted out of office!’
‘It's like talking to a Klingon!’ 

The Good: Everything about the Nagus is chucklesome from his voracious sexual appetite, his wonderful wizened Ferengi make up (love the furry ears!) and Wallace Shawn’s brilliantly memorable performance (complete with that terrific laugh). When this show gets it right it really gets it right. Ugh – the Nagus chows down on wriggling worms and Rom bites a giant beetle in half. The line in insect based cuisine humour knows no bounds when it comes to this species. It's hilarious how every Ferengi in that meeting thinks that they are going to be chosen as the next Nagus, puffing out their chests and sitting tall. Zek has a difficult choice ahead of him…soothing tides that cause stimulating hallucinations or voluptuous Risian females. I'd go for the former...unless there are buff and oiled males on Risa. Zek’s clawed hands when he goes into the sleeping trance gets me every time and me and Simon (who also adores DS9 and especially the Ferengi episodes) often does this funny little movement when attempting to ignore a rant from yours truly. There’s a great camera angle from inside the hole blasted in the wall by the locater bomb. I cannot believe they staged the Godfather sequence; all Venetian blinds, stroking hideously unconvincing puppets and venerating subjects. Cheesy, yes. Funny, oh yes. Dax grabs a massive scoopful of aubergine stew as soon as Sisko is out of sight which is exactly what is precisely what I would have done. 

The Bad: The bombing sequence is poorly edited and makes it confusing to figure out what has happened.

Moment to Watch Out For: Given how often it is mentioned it is nice to see somebody almost tossed out of the nearest airlock.

Teaser-tastic: A quirky teaser for a quirky episode and my first sight of the Nagus will never be forgotten. Especially that ear hair.

Myth Building: So many wonderful things going on in this episode it is hard to keep track of them all. Firstly this episode re-states Ira Behr’s intention to rectify past mistakes concerning the Ferengi and giving the culture some real depth and likeability. To his credit he succeeds admirably not just by making this episode such a gem but by giving the culture an awesome figurehead in the Nagus and by writing in some menacing as well as funny Ferengi characters. At the same time the family chemistry between Quark, Rom and Nog continues to sparkle and gives us a real insight into the politics and rivalry that takes place within their family. You’ve also got the reappearance of Morn who is clearly going to propping up the bar at Quark’s for ever more and he’s always a welcome sight. How funny is his massive silhouette in the door when the meeting is about to begin and his hurt face when Quark shoves him out of the door? Jake and Nog’s friendship continues to deepen and its great to see the school again. Fantastic to see DS9 laying down so many staples that would continue to be explored throughout the seven seasons. The idea of the Ferengi freeze drying their dead and selling them off as prize collectables makes perfect sense within this culture.

Orchestra: Maybe because it is a comedy episode I don’t know but the music feels more noticeable than usual. I love the epic sting when we focus on Zek’s portrait and the piano ticklings at the end as Quark is lead to his death really stand out.

Result: Proof if it was needed that episodes set solely on DS9 shit all over the bottle shows on TNG or Voyager, The Nagus is a delightfully funny and universe expanding piece that is bolstered by many superb performances. The chemistry between the Ferengi actors on Deep Space Nine is so delightful and I love spending time with them. Focussing an episode entirely on Ferengi culture might fill you with dread given how badly they have been treated in TNG but fear not since this is a gorgeously funny Godfather parody that introduces us to one of the greatest ever Star Trek characters – Wallace Shawn’s Grand Nagus Zek. He’s lecherous, greedy, slightly psychotic and utterly lovable. We’ve never seen anything like this before and it confirms that Deep Space Nine is forging its own unique path through the Star Trek universe: 9/10

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